Psychology, Department of


First Advisor

David J. Hansen

Date of this Version

Summer 6-2019

Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor David J. Hansen. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2019

Copyright 2019 Kate Theimer


Following disclosure, support from professionals (e.g., mental health clinicians, social workers, health care providers, teachers) can help increase resiliency in youth who experience child sexual abuse (CSA). Particularly, those who respond compassionately and competently, believe and report the abuse, do not blame the victim, and increase the family’s protective factors are best suited to decrease negative outcomes. Yet, research shows that many professionals are not adequately prepared to support families due to insufficient knowledge and misinformed beliefs (Pelisoli, Herman, & Dell’Aglio, 2015). Moreover, few assessments measure knowledge specific to the aftermath of CSA and few interventions aim to increase professional knowledge on outcomes with the goal of increasing child resiliency. Therefore, the purpose of this project was to (a) develop and evaluate a measure to assess knowledge and beliefs about the consequences of CSA and (b) develop and evaluate an online intervention that provides students and developing professionals with information about CSA outcomes, corrects misperceptions, and empowers adults to increase child resiliency. Two studies were completed to meet these aims.

Findings from Study 1 confirmed that a sample of 143 university students and developing professionals lacked sufficient knowledge about CSA outcomes. The instrument created was determined to be suitable at measuring CSA knowledge and beliefs. The 408 participants in Study 2 first completed the pre-treatment measure of CSA knowledge, were randomly assigned to the online CSA intervention or the attention control group (training on youth development), then completed the post-treatment measure. A subset of the sample completed the CSA assessment again two weeks after initial participation to measure retention.

Findings showed that the CSA webinar significantly increased participants’ knowledge of CSA outcomes and changed unsupportive beliefs. The control group demonstrated a nominal, yet significant, increase from pre- to post-test. Those who received the CSA training held more knowledge and supportive beliefs than those in the control group and this knowledge was broadly retained two weeks after completion of the training. Participants reported the CSA intervention was valuable and increased their motivation to support survivors. While several CSA-related interventions exist for adults, this intervention addressed gaps in current training efforts.

Advisor: David J. Hansen

Included in

Psychology Commons